Apple releases MacBook SMC Firmware Updater 1.4 for older MacBook, MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Friday, October 8th, 2010, 03:04
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released its MacBook SMC Firmware Updater 1.4 for older MacBook and MacBook Pro models solves a charging issue that takes place when using the latest MagSafe power adapters.

The update, an 880 kilobyte download, requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or 10.6.4 to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes at all, please let us know in the comments.

Sony introduces 16.41, 8.13 megapixel camera sensors

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Date: Thursday, October 7th, 2010, 04:24
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

Late Wednesday Sony unveiled a 16.41-megapixel IMX081PQ camera sensor that the company says could overcome many of the traditional barriers for phone cameras. The IMX081PQ is Sony’s first Exmor R-based CMOS sensor for a phone and uses the back-illuminated sensor to cut back significantly on noise. A unique photo diode positioning has let Sony achieve high image quality even with photo cells as small as 1.13 micrometers.

Per Electronista, the sensor can still shoot 1080p video at 30 frames per second. A new, very thin lens system keeps the thickness to 7.9mm (0.31 inches), which while not thin doesn’t protrude as much as previous phones.

Another, noticeably smaller 8.13-megapixel design, the IMX105PQ, is tailored for smartphones where space is at a high premium. Combined with its own thin lens, this could fit into a 5.67mm space while still offering most of the benefits of the 16.4-megapixel option, including the Exmor R design and high light sensitivity.



Sample production of the 16.41-megapixel and 8.13-megapixel sensors won’t ship until January and April respectively, when individual sensors will cost US$30 and US$18 without a lens. Adding the optics will boost the prices to US$145 and US$97, respectively. These prices should fall significantly once the devices are made in large volumes and discounted for the economy of scale.

No customers have been confirmed, other than likely Sony Ericsson, but the sensors could be serious contenders versus the OmniVision sensors that have been staples of the iPhone since launch. As of yet, Apple isn’t expected to adopt Sony’s sensors, but it has been a fan of image quality over sheer resolution and may be eager to offer both in a phone.

OmniVision has yet to directly respond with an alternative product.

Verizon COO states new iPhone announcement would arrive from Apple, not Verizon

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Date: Thursday, October 7th, 2010, 04:58
Category: iPhone, News

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Per the cool cats at Macworld, Verizon President and COO Lowell McAdam commented made a recent comment at the CTIA conference in San Francisco that reports of a Verizon iPhone would be addressed by Apple, not Verizon.

When asked to comment about a story from The Wall Street Journal that Apple will begin building a Verizon-compatible iPhone by the end of the year, McAdam dismissed the story as “one of those things that rolls out every few weeks whether there’s a basis for it or not.”

“I can’t give you any insights,” he continued. “But I think Apple is the one that has to make that announcement.”

McAdam remains hopeful that a deal will eventually be reached, especially as Verizon rolls out its Long-Term Evolution 4G data network.

“What I’ve always said is I expect at some point in time our business interests are going to align,” McAdam said. “I think things like LTE are another great reason why they’d want a device or tablet on that network. But I don’t have anything to say today about timing.”

Back in September, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg downplayed rumors of an upcoming Verizon iPhone by telling investors that he hopes Apple will work with Verizon to sell an LTE 4G smartphone.

Despite the remarks, rumors have persisted that a CDMA iPhone will arrive in early 2011.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Current MacBook Air supplies being depleted, next-gen model said to be forthcoming

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Date: Thursday, October 7th, 2010, 04:19
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

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With current supplies of Apple’s MacBook Air notebook drying up through the company’s indirect sales channels, rumors are spreading that a next generation model is on the horizon.

Per AppleInsider, all but one of the Apple Authorized Resellers that the web site tracks tracks as part of its Mac Price Guide have run out of low-end 1.83GHz MacBook Air, including Amazon.com, MacConnection, MacMall and J&R. In addition, at least two of those resellers are also reflecting no stock of the high-end 2.13GHz configuration.

This marks the first time the web site has witnessed this abnormal trend in regards to the Air since it began tracking availability of Apple’s Mac line on a daily basis over two years ago. For weeks now, the websites of certain resellers have indicated that inventory of the low-end MacBook Air was on the verge of depletion, urging shoppers to “order soon,” as only a handful of units remained in stock.

Sources familiar with the buy side of operations for big box retailers like Best Buy and Amazon.com say that Apple has indicted to them that it will not replenish supply of the notebooks until October 12th through October 16th at the earliest. Such expansive delays on low volume products like the MacBook Air are common only when Mac maker is preparing to overhaul the product line, these people say.

Mid-October hardware updates have become something of an annual tradition for Apple, who last year unveiled a redesigned line of iMacs and unibody MacBook on October 20th, 2009. Though last year’s products were introduced without a formal event, in 2008 the company held a special gathering for the media on October 14th to introduce new MacBooks. Back in 2005, the company similarly held two events in mid-October to introduce a new iPod, iMac, and a lineup of PowerBook notebooks.

All these signs seem to support persistent rumors out of the Far East that Apple is gearing up to overhaul the MacBook Air line with a newly designed 11.6″ display this fall, creating a more aggressively priced notebook for students and the business traveler. It’s reported that Apple plans to ship around a half-million units before the end of the 2010 calendar year. The current MacBook Air sports a 13.3″ display.

Rumors of a MacBook Air with an 11.6″ display first surfaced in July. The rumored hardware was anticipated to be even slimmer and lighter, and will be powered by an Intel Core i-series ultra-low voltage processor.

There’s also been a mixture of chatter regarding a much cheaper, thinner 11.6-inch Apple notebook that would weigh as little as 2.7 pounds due to the possibility of new carbon fiber unibody construction, though this and defined technical specifications have yet to be confirmed on any level.

The introduction of a new MacBook Air would likely come alongside an update to Apple’s iLife suite, a product that has also become long in the tooth. The last update, iLife ’09, was launched in January of 2009.

Recent rumors have suggested that a presumed iLife ’11 refresh will be written entirely in 64-bit code, will include a rewritten iWeb, and will drop the iDVD application. It has also been suggested that the software will be available for iOS-based devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what you think in the comments.

Hitachi releases updated desktop, notebook hard drives, offers up to 750 GB capacities

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Date: Wednesday, October 6th, 2010, 08:10
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Electronics maker Hitachi announced its new 375GB per platter, 5400-rpm and 7200-rpm, 2.5″ hard drives: the Travelstar 5K750 and Travelstar 7K750 on Wednesday.

Per Macworld, Hitachi has stated that the drives offer the industry’s highest capacities in a standard 9.5 mm two-disk design.

The Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 drive families are the first Hitachi hard drives that feature Advanced Format, which increases the physical sector size on hard drives from 512 bytes to 4096 bytes, or 4KB—eight times larger. Hitachi’s previous generation drive was the Travelstar 7K500, which had maximum areal density of 370 Gbits per square inch. The new platters have an areal density of 472 Gbit per square inch.

Hitachi’s 5400-rpm Travelstar 5K750 drives feature an 8MB buffer for caching and a Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gbit per second interface for fast data transfer rates. The drive consumes 0.5 watts while idle and 1.4 watts power during read/write operations, which Hitachi said contributes to longer battery life in notebooks and other unplugged applications.

Hitachi’s 7200-rpm Travelstar 7K750 drive has a 16MB buffer, which allows quicker access to data and faster system performance, especially for multi-tasking and other high-performance office and home applications. It uses 0.5 watts idle and 1.8 watts during read/write operations.

The Travelstar 7K750 is a self-encrypting drive using Hitachi’s Bulk Data Encryption (BDE) specification, which encrypts data using protected keys in real time. It also speeds and simplifies the drive re-deployment process. By deleting the encryption key, the data on the drive is rendered unreadable, thereby eliminating the need for time-consuming data-overwrite. The drive is said to be “independent of OS so that a BDE hard drive can be used on an Apple Macintosh system. However, because Apple systems do not support the ATA security feature set, a BDE drive will function only as a standard drive in an Apple system.”

Both of the new Travelstar hard drive families come in capacities of 500GB, 640GB and 750GB.

Travelstar 5K750 Retail Hard Drive Kits will be available next month with a suggested retail price of US$130. The drive will be shipping to system manufacturers for qualification by the end of the year. The 7200-rpm Travelstar 7K750 family will be available in Q1 2011. Pricing for that drive has yet to be announced.

iPhone 4 shipping times drop to 5 to 7 days

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Date: Wednesday, October 6th, 2010, 05:48
Category: iPhone, News

Apple looks to have worked its its supply constraints for the iPhone 4 since the device’s June launch, AppleInsider reporting that the handset is now advertised for shipping within 5 to 7 days from Apple’s online store.

Both models of the iPhone 4 (available in 16GB and 32GB capacities for US$199 and US$299, respectively, with AT&T contract) now ship within 5 to 7 business days. The 8GB, US$99 iPhone 3GS ships within 1 to 2 weeks, while the white iPhone 4 remains unavailable.

The change in shipping times would imply that Apple has begun to catch up with strong consumer demand for the iPhone 4.

Shipping estimates had remained at three weeks or longer since the handset launched in June. In its first three days of availability, the phone sold a record 1.7 million units.

Apple has struggled to meet demand since launch, as supplies for overseas expansion have been constrained. Last month, the iPhone 4 launched in China, and carrier China Unicom was only able to fulfill about half of the preorders placed by customers.

In a similar fashion, Apple could not meet iPad demand for months after the touchscreen tablet launched in April. It took until late August for the Cupertino, Calif., company to improve online order shipping times to 24 hours.

The white iPhone 4 is still listed as unavailable, and Apple has not provided an update on the status of the device since July, when it said the product would not be available until “later this year.” The company has said that the white model proved “more challenging to manufacture than expected.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPad now directly available through Amazon.com, Target

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Date: Tuesday, October 5th, 2010, 04:23
Category: iPad, News

Just as the iPad went on sale at U.S. retailer Target, Apple’s tablet is also now available at the standard price for purchase direct through online storefront Amazon.com.

Per Amazon, customers can now buy the iPad through Amazon, though only the 32GB and 64GB Wi-Fi models are available. Both are offered at the same price as they are through Apple: US$599 for 32GB, and US$699 for 64GB.

The other four models are not yet sold by Amazon, but as before, third-party resellers have made Apple’s touchscreen tablet available with a premium markup. For example, the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model sells for a lowest new price of US$556.72 with another US$8.18 for shipping, an increase from the regular entry-level US$499 asking price.

iPad models now sold through Amazon are available without local tax for many customers. In addition, those who have Amazon Prime are eligible for free shipping.

The expansion of the iPad to Amazon’s warehouses is yet another step in the retail growth of the device. On Sunday, U.S. retailer Target began selling the iPad right on schedule, as the company announced it would in September.

Recentlye, the iPad became available for sale at all Best Buy stores in the U.S., expanding to 1,093 retail locations. Previously, the iPad was limited to 673 Best Buy Stores with Apple retail store locations.

Apple strips AirPrint support for second-gen iPod touch devices

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Date: Monday, October 4th, 2010, 10:42
Category: iPod Touch, News, Software

Per 9 to 5 Mac, Apple has revised its original AirPrint announcement, removing promised support for the second-generation iPod touch device. Still in development, AirPrint automatically finds printers on local networks that can print text, photos, and graphics wirelessly over Wi-Fi networks without the need for additional drivers or software.

Apple’s original documents stated that printing would only be supported on iOS devices that support multitasking, yet listed the second-generation iPod touch as compatible. The second-generation iPod touch has since been removed from the compatible device list.

This marks the second incident in the last few months where Apple has revised its list of supported devices before a software update’s official launch, as it removed Game Center support for the iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G while it was still in beta testing, only to once again include support for the second-gen touch shortly before the feature’s debut in iOS 4.1.

Second-gen Apple TV may be causing video distortion on older TVs

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Date: Monday, October 4th, 2010, 05:54
Category: Apple TV, News

Apple’s long-awaited second generation Apple TV may be spiffy, but there may be bugs to sort out.

Per CNET, the set-top box may cause video distortion and users have reported that the new Apple TV may not be compatible with some television sets only five years old.

User jitterysquid first posted the issue in the Apple Support Discussions board:
“I got my new Apple TV gen 2 today and hooked it up in place of the old one. The picture was wavy. I removed the HDMI switch from the equation, no dice. I swapped cables, no dice.

The only issue I can think of (besides bad hardware) is that I use an HDMI->DVI cable for the last leg to my TV. It’s not a converter, it is fully HDCP aware, and it works fine with ATV G1 and a Roku for Netflix HD streaming.”

Other users have chimed in, stating that they are having the same issues and that a straight HDMI > HDMI cable has not solved the issue. The common theme, though, seems to be the age of the television sets that users are attempting to connect the new Apple TV to–approximately five years or older.

The official tech specs on the new Apple TV on Apple’s Web site read:
“Compatible with high-definition TVs with HDMI and capable of 720p 60/50Hz,2 including popular models from these manufacturers: Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, Westinghouse”

Though many all of the forum posters claim their televisions are capable of full 720p, there still seems to be an issue. Most users have also reported that the same Apple TV unit works on newer HD TVs they tested. It is possible the issue could lie in a setting on the TV itself. Be sure your set is not configured to stretch incoming signals to 1080i. If so, set it to 720p and you should get a clearer picture.

The other possibility is that the Apple TV software is not sending a signal that is completely usable by older HD TV models. If this is the case, expect Apple to release updates that continue to include television compatibility (along the line of printer driver updates).

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Rumor points to touchscreen displays for next-gen iMacs

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Date: Monday, October 4th, 2010, 04:02
Category: iMac, Rumor

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With rumors of a new generation of iMac on the horizon, one of the more interesting details has pointed to a potential new touchscreen display for the upcoming desktop.

Per DigiTimes, component supplier Sintek Photronics has sent samples of capacitive touch panels to Apple for a new touchsreen all-in-one iMac desktop computer. The report claimed that the new hardware will have screen sizes of 20″ and greater.

“The new iMac is rumored to have a good vertical and horizontal viewing angle, and its projected capacitive touch panel will adopt a one-glass solution, which integrates the touch sensor and cover glass, to reduce thickness and weight,” the report said.

It noted that most touch panels are made by placing the sensor over the panel, and are then covered with glass. But it is said this method is costly, complex, and results in a dimmer screen.

It was said that Sintek Photronics “has a good chance” of becoming a supplier for the alleged new line of iMacs. No projected release date for the rumored hardware was given.

In January of this year, rumors indicated that a 22″ touchscreen iMac would launch this year. But the claims in Friday’s report that Apple is still testing touch panels would suggest that a 2010 launch is not likely.

A number of patent applications from Apple this year show touch-capable iMac-style desktop computers. One interesting filing shows a machine that could operate in a traditional format, but with a hinge on the back that would allow it to be tilted for easier access for a user’s fingertips.

Another application described a desktop screen that could detect shapes and objects pressed against it. It described a machine that would allow new types of input, such as a security system that required a physical key to be pressed against the screen and detected.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.